In our Alumni Q&A series, we caught up with Tomm Polos BFA ’10. The Alumni Leadership Council Co-Chair discusses his professional work, an SDA program he’s passionate about, his favorite theatre on campus and more.
About the Alum
Tomm Polos is an award-winning spokesperson, humorist and content creator. He was born and raised in Katonah, New York, where his first 15 minutes of fame came as a result of a parody song satirizing media maven Martha Stewart. His work, in one form or another, has appeared on every national broadcast network in North America including ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX as well as in Time Magazine and in The New York Post. His collective views and subscribers across an array of YouTube, TikTok and other social channels are in the tens of millions and he has proudly been the face and voice of many brands, including the largest telecommunication company in the world: AT&T. Polos has traveled the country hosting events and pregame shows at Yankee Stadium, Oracle Park, the NCAA Final Four, the Tribeca Film Festival and more. The New York Times once said of his performance as a drummer that Polos “lost his rhythm.” He was in fifth grade and will never forget this. More at polos.org.
Tell us a little bit about your professional background.
Polos: I’ve been very fortunate to pretty much be “Tomm” for a living. I recommend it! Originally, I found my niche working in those “30-second movies” they call commercials. That led to becoming the spokesman and face for AT&T for many years, which allowed me to travel the country filming and interfacing with clients and customers. I’ve continued to couple with companies and find working with brands to be fulfilling — it provides a perfect balance of fun and function for those with creative and business oriented brains. In short, it allows myself to monetize… myself.
What are you currently working on professionally?
There are some cleverly written NDAs that prevent me from fully answering, but I mostly partner with brands to be their talent, spokesperson, host and help in any way I can to add to their content creation. I’m also director of special projects at Gas Media Group (GMG), which is a media company that oversees and helps operate some of the largest TikTok talent and YouTube channels in the world. You’d be surprised how often Ibsen, Chekhov and Shakespeare come up there!
What was your best USC experience?
Outside of SDA, being Tommy Trojan for the basketball team was extraordinary. We went to the Sweet 16 and it was incredible to pretend to be an athlete. Other favorite moments include speaking at commencement, writing songs with Tony Award-winner Jason Robert Brown, and taking care of Lizzie at the (now banned) Fountain Run.
Why did you choose to become involved as an alumni volunteer at SDA? How long have you been volunteering at SDA and what has been the most rewarding experience thus far as a volunteer?
Because I’m so talented and good looking (just quoting others), I was asked to speak on a guest panel during a Parents Weekend about working after graduating. That went well enough where I developed a rapport with the wonderful powers-that-be at SDA and have grown in the ranks. Shoutout to the Alumni Leadership Council, the ITSC Cabinet, and the Board of Governors. It’s an honor to speak with prospective students, current students and young alumni so they can learn from the mistakes (and successes) of their elders. Oh, geez. I guess I’m an elder now?
What are some of the main reasons why you choose to support SDA with your charitable giving?
Besides wanting to crush UCLA and all of our rivals, I want to spotlight that we’re better than UCLA. Sorry, that was redundant. I also want our next generation to be the best so we can further separate ourselves and I want to do my part to help SDA be the finest it can be.
Do you have a particular passion program within SDA?
The Institute of Theatre and Social Change is a point of pride for the Trojan Family. Everyone knows USC has stellar academics, athletics and weather. But they should be made aware of how much good that SDA does through the Institute of Theatre and Social Change. It immeasurably improves our community and those who need amplification the most through creative and essential work. I’m also passionate about the steps of PED.
Was there a class or professor that was particularly meaningful or influential during your time at the School?
All of them, especially Paul Backer. But special props to Brent Blair for leading by example and sticking with me so much so after graduating. And for that time he told me he’d take me to lunch and then “forgot his wallet.” Love you, Brent!
What (if any) productions did you work on?
Work is a generous word. There were well over a dozen attempts at performance art at the Bing, Scene Dock, Massman, Village Gate and even the courtyard of the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center! That production, coincidentally, hasn’t aged well!
What was your favorite theatre at SDA? Why?
Easy. The USC Village Gate Theatre. While it’s no longer with us, it was the weirdest, but best space you could have an event in. It was like a ski chalet lobby meets an abandoned internet café. And there were some fiery performances there!
What can students do during their training to prepare themselves for the professional world?
Enjoy your meal plan as you find what works for you. Picture your years after graduating as an EVK buffet. Try everything but don’t duplicate someone else’s dish! Certain teachers might’ve made more sense to you than others, right? Think about the nuggets they offered. During training, explore what you want your personal and professional world to look like five or 10 years after graduating. It’s impossible to fully plan, but it will help you know what’s on your menu. I’m very hungry now!
What lessons from your SDA training have you applied to your professional life?
Trust your scene partner, actively listen and rely on good people! My classmates are still some of my closest friends and quickly became my support system post college. We used to kvetch, laugh and scheme on the steps of PED as confused underclassmen — we still do it today just with nicer clothes. My best advice: have fun, have fun, have fun! Life gets faster every year — so enjoy it!